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Content: Using Words to Market Your Art

You're an artist, not an English major, right? Sort of. Being in the business of art requires you to wear a number of different hats. In order to maximize your sales efforts, you'll need to develop conversational and written skills that support your artistic endeavors. Don't know where to get started? We've provided a few tips and tactics below.

Make it Conversational
Which would you rather read: a company's 40-page annual report, or a letter from a friend? If you're an annual report aficionado, you have our apologies—most people would rather read something that shows personality and speaks in a tone similar to a conversation being held among friends, or at least acquaintances.

Does your artist's bio really let your personality shine through? Do your artwork and show descriptions read like an instruction manual or a short story? When writing (or working with a professional writer) to develop show support materials, imagine that you're having a conversation with the reader. Write in a way that flows. If you find yourself being asked the same questions about your work, consider addressing those questions in one of your pieces of marketing collateral.

One specific way to make your work more conversational is to use contractions. Consider this:

---Contractions aren't formal; they're a great way to make sure you don't sound too stodgy.

Using contractions implies more familiarity with your reader. They also help the flow of a document by mimicking the way that people talk to one another.

Make it Consistent
Are you Arnold J. Finklestein or Arnie Finklestein or A.J. Finklestein? Is your phone number 831-555- 1234 or (813) 555-1234 or 831.555.1234? Is your web site available at, as listed on your business card, or, as listed on your bio? Consistency is key in keeping buyers focused on your artwork.

Even small things, like formatting a phone number differently, create psychological noise in the mind of the reader, disrupting the flow of the conversation you've worked so hard to create. Decide on one format, one name, one web URL, and then stick to it.

Make it Correct
Nothing is worse than printing out a couple hundred copies of your show guide, only to find out that there's a typo or something missing. On all of your marketing materials, make sure not only to check for spelling and grammatical errors, but also to check for the presence (and correctness) of phone numbers, e-mail addresses, web site URL's, etc. At the very least run your word processor's spell check program; preferably, have a friend, colleague or even a professional editor take a look at the document before you go to Kinko's.

One more thing: If you've designed a brochure or show guide using words as graphic elements, check the spelling of the words within those graphic elements. We recently saw an artist bio that used large words grayed out as the background graphics for his actual typed information. While the bio itself was grammatically correct, one very important 'background' word, 'photography', was missing the letter 'y'. Distracting at best, unprofessional at the worst.

Start and Continue a Conversation
One way to use words to maximize your sales efforts is to initiate, and then follow through on, a conversation. Does that mean we want you to turn around to the person behind you in line at the grocery store and say, "Let me tell you about my artwork that fuses the freedom-inspiring feeling of natural landscapes with the fear-inspiring feeling of man-made disasters?" Not necessarily, though we suspect that'd be an interesting checkout experience!

Use your shows and other events, as well as your web site, to collect the contact information of people who attend. They've shown you, by virtue of their presence, that they're interested in a conversation…it's up to you to start one!

E-mail is a fantastic and inexpensive way to begin communicating with your audiences. If you're exhibiting in Portland, Oregon, consider culling your contact list and dropping a note to your Oregon patrons, letting them know the location, date and time. Let people know of upcoming exhibitions, artwork sales, good news. Get personal, and let them know the inspiration behind what you're working on next.

One way to reach many people with a single e-mail is by developing a newsletter that includes news, insights, articles and subtle (or not so subtle!) sales pitches. We'll talk about this more in a future issue of REDIMAT News.

Give a Call to Action
'Call to action' is a marketing term that describes a phrase or set of phrases that give a buyer a reason to do something. Calls to action you might be familiar with include things like, "Order now!" or "Click here to find out more."

For artists, the calls to action in your marketing materials need to fit with the general tone and style of your marketing materials. Tell your prospective buyers what you would like them to do next. A photographer with a very conversational, slightly cynical tone may say, 'Go ahead and buy a photograph today, before I become really famous and start charging you a whole lot more.' An artist with a more laid-back approach might use something as simple as, 'Be sure to visit my next show at the Bijou Gallery on Front Street.'

Use your marketing materials to help guide your potential buyers in the right direction. Let your personality shine through, keep things consistent, make sure they're correct, and keep the conversations flowing, and you'll see your business bloom…*without* that pesky English degree!

"....many people pass my photos down to their next generation and want to preserve them for posterity. I use the black core 8 ply to add drama to a piece."

--Corey Gilbert, Owner/photographer of Cape May, NJ's Tides of Time (

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